Should applicants lengthen their college lists?

What do Columbia and Penn State have in common? That’s easy; they’re both Lions! But followers of this blog know there’s got to be more. Recently, both Columbia and Penn State have joined the cohort of test-optional colleges, and the counselor networks are buzzing. Let’s find out more.

Standardized Testing: Are You Down with It? What other colleges have scrapped the test? In addition to the Lions mentioned above, the list includes U Miami, Dartmouth, UVA (which also changed the ED I deadline to November 1), Penn, Cal Tech. Rutgers, RCNJ and Hopkins. And as I write this blog, I see that the mighty Carnegie Mellon has gone test-optional as well. Who would’ve thought . . .

“Please note that we are aware that many students, if able to test, could only take a test once. As noted above, that context will be taken into consideration should scores be provided. Standardized testing is only one component in a highly contextualized, multi-layered holistic review.”  –Columbia Admissions

Meanwhile, College Board has said no to the possibility of an at-home SAT. Slammed by publicity during the recent AP exams, it’s leaving online testing to rival ACT. As stated in The Wall Street Journal, “The announcement and request for leniency from schools comes as questions about the value of standardized test scores continue to swirl among admissions officers.” The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), an organization to which this college counselor belongs, backed College Board’s decision to not pursue an at-home test while calling out the ACT: “We reiterate our call to ACT to reconsider its plans for online, at-home testing in light of reasonable concerns about inequitable access to technology, and ask its leadership to similarly reflect on the role standardized testing plays in ongoing equity concerns.” Implications for Admissions: If colleges known to rely on numbers no longer have an SAT or ACT, they’ll need to look deeper. The U, for example, has already announced that it will add a supplemental essay for 2020-21 that will “focus on resilience.”

  1. In Civil Engineering, Stevens grads earned $14,500 more than the mean, higher than those from Cornell.

  2. Monmouth University English majors earn slightly more than Columbia English grads.

  3. Applying to a college just to do it – especially adding elite colleges having acceptance rates under 10 percent – can be an exercise in frustration.

  4. It’s understandable to add colleges that are closer to home for financial or family reasons.

  5. If a family can afford the fees, there’s no harm in trying. But is the student primed for the extra essays?

The best piece of advice in the article: “Make senior year relevant.” That means students should challenge themselves in a way that will passes the scrutiny of admissions people who are looking beyond grades and test scores. In the article, Selingo notes, “If students feel they aren’t ready to move on to the next level of a subject because their spring was upended, they should use the summer to brush up with online courses.”

2020: The Summer of Online Love? Parents are asking what online programs their student should take. Tough choice. While some elite colleges have made their programs virtual, that doesn’t mean they’re affordable, or that space is still available. Here are some programs that are appealing:

  1. Stevens‘ online programs include Music Production, Virtual Reality and Game Design.

  2. Banson NYC is providing Virtual Fashion Summer Camps.

  3. The School of the NY Times still has space in Writing for Television, Reporting in NY and Fundamentals of Editing.

  4. Sotheby’s Institute of Art is offering Art History, Art Conservation and Art Appraisal.

Over the last few month, we’ve seen projected trends turn to realities, and college is front and center, with the acceleration of policy and curricular changes. I’m here to help share useful information, clear up uncertainty and, of course, differentiate your applicant.

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